August 2004, Napoli was declared bankrupt, with debts of up to 70 million. It looked as if this historical Italian football giant had completely disappeared. Only for the well renowned Italian film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis to come to the rescue. As they were not allowed to use their old name, they became Napoli Soccer. The Italian FA placed them in Serie C1, the third division, and they narrowly missed out on promotion that season. The fans remained faithful throughout, with average attendances of 40,000, higher then most Seria A teams. The following season they secured promotion and De Laurentiis acquired their original name; S.S.C Napoli. After just one season in Seria B, they were promoted on the final day of the season. In the last two seasons they have remained in the top half of the table and have consistently challenged for the Europa league.
Under manager Walter Mazzarri, Napoli currently lie second in Seria A. Four points behind AC Milan and two points ahead of Roma. Not many pundits would have predicted it, especially when they lost one of their best players; Fabio Quagliarella to Juventus. So how did a team who were non-existent in 2004 rebuild to challenge for the title this season ? Maybe a bit of luck? The answer isn’t as simple as that, Napoletani are renowned for never giving up, boundless energy combined with total disorganization. Not only that but in recent years their scouts have snapped up world class talent for nothing. Examples of this include Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi, who have carried the team in recent seasons. Another turning point this season was the signing of Edison Cavani from Palermo. The Argentine, has already scored fourteen goals and looks lethal in the box. Paolo Cannavaro, Fabio’s younger brother, has provided defensive stability even against the best attackers. They normally play a 3-5-2 in general so they are solid in midfield.
It remains to be seen this season, but the future looks bright for Napoli. As long as they don’t lose focus they look solid. The only thing that troubles me is that they lack an emerging Italian star to contribute to the development of Italian football. Intrinsically linked to Napoli is Diego Maradona, although he is not their future, his words sum up the essence of Naples.
“I don’t like the fact that now everybody is asking Neapolitans to be Italian and to support their national team. Naples has always been marginalised by the rest of Italy. It is a city that suffers the most unfair racism”
Diego Armando Marardona, June 1990